Metro council to hear public on marijuana penalties, considers fencing downtown area overpass
Baton Rouge metro council meetings are off to a running start in January. With one meeting out of the way and one upcoming on the 24th, now is the time to get informed and involved in local government.
At the January 10th meeting, Councilman Matt Watson (District 11) removed his proposal to create a tax for the increase of Police Salaries. By deleting the proposal from the agenda ahead of public comments and a vote, the tax issue can be raised again at another time. Had it gone to a vote and failed, rules state that it cannot be brought forward for another calendar year. He cited a current lack of support as his reason for the removal.
New BR police chief Murphy Paul made an appearance at the meeting to ask for a budget increase for the Targeted Violent Criminal Program. These funds, which come entirely from a federal grant, would be used to purchase an automated dispatch system.
Council members deferred a number of items to future meetings. Changes to the city pay plan are on hold for sixty days after a heated debate on how changes will impact newer employees. The decision on whether or not to re-appoint Cleve Dunn Jr. to the Airport District Board was deferred again and is currently set for the next meeting on January 24th. The 24th meeting will also readdress the placement of fences under the overpass at North St. This discussion was deferred out of concern for the homeless population that resides there. The Mayor’s office is working with organizations and stakeholders to create a program to address concerns.
Issues introduced at the meeting on the 10th will be up for public comment and voting on the 24th. A draft introduced by council members Chandler Loupe (District 3) and Lamont Cole (District 7) will change the enforcement of marijuana possession. The penalty for possession of under 14 grams would be punishable by a $300 fine and no more than 15 days in jail under the changes.
An item intended to reduce crime in hotels and motels introduced by council members Watson, Erika Green (District 5), and Barbara Freiberg (District 12) could have negative repercussions for hotel owners. Under the changes hotel and motel guests will have to present a valid government issued ID before being allowed to stay in a room. The changes also increase the fines levied if a hotel or motel keeps an incomplete record of previous guests. Under current law, hotels must retain guest records for the previous three years of operation.
The proposed changes also create a permit system for hotels/motels. These business would have to register with the Department of Development in order to operate. The required permit could be suspended or revoked if the hotel or motel had too many police dispatches for drug or prostitution related crimes over a given time period. Hotels and motels without an up to date permit would not be able to stay open for business.
By Progressive Social Network of Baton Rouge